The case of crimen injuria against KwaZulu-Natal judge president Chiman Patel degenerated into farce on Thursday following the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) decision to drop the charges against him in the Durban Magistrates Court.
It started with the three members of the original prosecuting team not being present in court, leaving senior control prosecutor, Barend Groen, who had only been requested to handle the matter on Wednesday afternoon, to field regional magistrate Sharon Marks’ questions.
None of the prosecutors had informed Marks of their intention not to appear in court.
Clearly irritated, Marks questioned why she had only been notified on Tuesday that the charges were to be withdrawn and that she had, by Thursday, yet to receive official written confirmation of the prosecuting authority’s decision.
Marks also enquired whether the decision by the prosecuting authority to withdraw the charges had been taken at provincial or national level and whether this was the end of the matter.
Groen repeated emphatically that his office had never been seized by the docket: “I’ve never read the docket… so I can’t give reasons. This office had nothing to do with this prosecution,” he said.
The crimen injuria charge, by a high court stationery clerk, Lindiwe Nxele, emerged in October 2013, and led to Patel being charged almost a year later, with the judge making his first court appearance in November.
Nxele alleged that Patel had called her a “nonsense, trash, rubbish and useless person”. Which he has strongly denied.
NPA spokesperson Nathi Mncube said: “After a thorough consultation with the witnesses for the state it became clear that there were no prospects of a successful prosecution and a decision to withdraw the matter was accordingly made.”
Patel’s lawyer, advocate Marumo Moerane SC said the legal team was “happy” that “this travesty of justice” and “utter waste of taxpayers’ money” had finally ended.
“We submit that even with a perfunctory glance at the case docket anyone with a modicum of intelligence and little knowledge of the law would have realised that on the facts there was never a case against the judge president,” said Moerane.
Moerane said he and colleague advocate Pingla Hemraj had decided not to charge a fee and waste taxpayers’ money.